I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death, so that I may somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been perfected, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus.
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
Paul understood that the mission of sharing the message of God’s grace Jesus had given to him (Acts 20:24), the heavenly calling as Paul called it in Philippians 3:14, would result in great suffering and, eventually, lead to his death. (Philippians 1:20-24). The Holy Spirit warned him he would suffer as he shared God’s grace (Acts 20:23). Paul warned Timothy of the same suffering (1 Timothy 1:8).
Paul experienced tremendous suffering while sharing the good news of grace. Much of his suffering came through the religious leaders who opposed his message of grace. They tried to silence Paul. He mentioned his sufferings in the letters he wrote.
Paul viewed his sufferings from religious leaders as knowing Christ in the "fellowship of his sufferings”. Just as Jesus suffered at the hands of the religious leaders for pouring grace upon the prostitutes, tax collectors, and others, so did Paul. Religious leaders are always rebellious to grace and go to great lengths to silence those who share it, such as the crucifixion of Jesus.
Not only was Paul aware he would share in the sufferings of Jesus from the religious, but he also knew he would suffer at the hands of the Gentiles, just as Jesus did. And that one day, his sufferings would result in what Christ experienced, death. But like Christ was resurrected from the dead, Paul believed he, somehow, would be resurrected.
At the time of he wrote Philippians, Paul had not yet experienced the fullness of the sufferings he was certain would come as he anticipated knowing Christ in the “fellowship of His sufferings” and the resurrection to follow. He could not comprehend how he could be raised from the dead. But he pressed on, taking hold of that which Christ took hold of him...to share the good news of grace and experience the sufferings that accompanied his mission of sharing the message of God’s grace.
For Paul to move forward in the mission of sharing God’s grace, he would need to forget what was behind, which was his past religious life of pursuing righteousness through religious activity and morality, as well as the persecution he brought upon the church. He would now focus on what was ahead, fulfilling his mission and receiving his reward for completing his assignment.
In 1 Corinthians 3:14, 4:1-5, and 9:24-27, Paul wrote of the rewards grace teachers would receive from the Lord for completing their assignments. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8, as he faced death, he knew his time on earth was short and he would soon receive his reward for finishing the race of sharing God’s grace. Paul’s phrase for finishing the mission of grace Jesus had given him was "finish the race” (Acts 20:24). In 2 Timothy 4:7, he writes that he had finished the race and was looking forward to receiving his reward.
As teachers of grace, we must stay focused on the goal of finishing the race Jesus has given us, the race of sharing his grace, and receiving the reward Jesus will give to us. Will we be slandered? Yes. Will we be persecuted? Yes. Will we suffer? Yes. Will we be rewarded? Yes!
This is the continuation of my teachings through Philippians. For my other teachings, visit my FB page or click below.